Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs)

What are they and how can we design to support them?

In Spring semester of 2022, Dr. Soudeh Jamshidian shared some of her work and insights with an ECUAD design audience. In particular, she introduced work happening in indigenous communities around the world to form IPCAs (Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas.)  This conservation work embodies an approach to natural sciences summed up by the term Zaagi’idiwin, an Ojibwe word for mutual love, a conception of love and relationality for reconciliation and improving inter-societal relationships. These practices overlap with the mission of DESIS lab activities, contributing to a future of resilience and diversity across human and ecological systems with re-designed social innovation and environmental justice. 

Photo: An aerial image of Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia. Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Park (previously known as Meares Island) has been a Tribal Park since 1984 as a response to unsustainable logging practices on traditional territories. Photo Credit: Jeremy Williams. Source:

IPCA (Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas) is a term coined by the Indigenous Circle of Experts (ICE) as described in the 2018 report “We Rise Together” (link: IPCAs are notable for being led by Indigenous governments with broad community engagement, and address land use and planning alongside establishing healthy economies for sustainable livelihoods. For example, indigenous-led conservation efforts shift away from extractive industrial processes and develop sustainable local economies to support community needs through opportunities such as ecotourism and guardianship, fish hatcheries, run-of-river hydroelectric, and others.


Image: Zaagi’idiwin design research documentation by N Reyes

Dr. Jamshidian invited the audience to participate in an upcoming February 14th Valentine’s Day event called Zaagi’idiwin. (Videos can be found here ). We learned from Zaagi’idiwin storytelling that a simplistic scientific view of the world can fragment it, and we can lose sight of the connectedness of life. We must learn to view other species beyond just as instrumental resources, and approach scientific pursuits from a place of love and empathy. In other words, we require other species to live and evolve, and this creates an inherent love for life, or biophilia.

Image: interconnected design sketch documentation by Weijin Ross. 

further reading: